BACKGROUND: Patients seeking treatment from general
medical practitioners (GP) may be unaware or ill-informed
that dentists are the more appropriate professionals to
manage their orofacial symptoms, being able to diagnose
and treat, or, if deemed necessary, appropriately refer.
AIMS: To: (1) determine from a group of patients (n =
37) their initial preference of health care provider, when
seeking treatment for orofacial symptoms (2) establish
their awareness of the appropriate proficiency of the
dentist, and, (3) determine the referral pathway before
patients attended the Tygerberg Oral Medicine Clinic.
METHODS: A cross sectional study design; quantitative
data was collected by a modified previously published
Bell-questionnaire with closed-ended questions.
RESULTS: 53.8% of patients preferred a dentist to attend
to a mouth or jaw problem and 46.1%, a GP. When clinical
scenarios were posed, all directly related to the scope of
practice of the dental practitioner, it was of concern that
47.3% chose the GP and 52.67% chose the dentist.
CONCLUSION: Patients initially chose the GP for many
orofacial diseases, although they indicated at the Oral
Medicine clinic that the dentist had the most relevant
knowledge. Participants did not associate some of the
orofacial symptoms with the training of dentists.